How to Succeed When Your Buyer is Not Your User
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
B2B SaaS Buyer and User Experiences are very different for obvious reasons but it is an important concept when ARR growth is stalled. The reason that companies fail to land and expand is primarily because Client relationships are not managed nor transitioned well throughout the client journey. Typically, the relationship starts with an executive (The Buyer) but the relationship slowly devolves through the deployment phase and conversations happen less with the Executive and more with End-Users or their Managers who are heavily invested in resolving the day to day issues list. This is how the first 'miss' happens. Your teams have stopped talking about the value of your solutions and they are now stuck talking about missed expectations and break/fixes. Frankly, the buying executive doesn't want to hear it.
In the early days of Healthcare IT, early adopters were buying systems built to automate but utterly ignore efficiency. I can remember trying to order Acetaminophen 650mg PO q4-6h for fever back in the day. It was (7) DOS-based screens (yes I counted) to click through when ordering but this was the process for every medication to be ordered. Automated? Yes. Efficient? Not by a long shot. When a trauma case came through the door, we automatically switched back to paper. The technology vendor met the Buyer's expectations of automation (for the most part) but fell far short of delivering to the User's expectations of efficiency and consistency so we just stopped using it. Guess where the complaints landed? Guess who was then slow to buy more? Even though technology usability for the most part has greatly improved beyond DOS-based, Linux command screens in the last 20 years, the experience gap persists.
Without a doubt, products need improvement but that's just table stakes. Your competition is developing at least as quickly as you are and unless you're Apple Inc., product isn't really your differentiator anyway. On the other hand, how the product is sold, delivered, trained and supported and even how the product is marketed can be. A badly or partially implemented product can be remedied but when issues lists usurp ROI and value conversations, it's hard to create growth. When Users complain to Managers who then complain to Buyers, your technology is now a 'problem' on the Buyer's list of unpleasant things to do. Worse, if you haven't transitioned that Buyer relationship out of Sales, it's now a Sales problem. The relationships and expectations that are set during the Sales cycle also set the tone for the rest of the Client's Journey. If you don't create Executive value quickly, teams will spend their days trying to get a meeting above the end-user Manager level.
It can be argued that the most important thing a technology company can do today is transition Client's executive/Sales relationship to the optimization team as quickly as possible to further build the value-based relationship and to start having discussions about value-based outcomes. The closer to contract signature this transition happens, the better so that the Sales team can move on. Because all client transitions are crucial to an overall successful and satisfying Client Journey as well as lowering overall operational costs and efficiencies, it follows that the End-Users and their Managers should be equally and as smoothly transitioned to a designated Support/Client Services Rep once the system is stabilized, post go-live.
B2B SaaS today can be so tightly woven into the Client's digital work experience that if you want to make a change in your Client relationships today while improving products, you could start with a Client Journey Map. This process will help you better understand where your Clients/Users/Stakeholders are interfacing/leveraging technology, even when it's not yours. Hubspot offers some wonderful insights and even a free template to get started. This tool can be used to help your teams from Sales through R&D understand the personas and their unique journeys, even with technologies that are not in your portfolio. Then, your Sales teams can talk about how your platform fits into the Client's digital workspace and brings value. Your Solution teams can design products, services, and support with the Client's entire digital workspace in mind and know that the Client is more than one person who is using more than just your platform. Lastly, your Optimization teams can focus on why the client bought and what the product needs to do for them to be successful. The sooner your teams start, the sooner they'll get into a rhythm of holistically and collaboratively re-evaluating the journeys to raise awareness of how client needs grow and change over time to make sure your solutions are what Buyers wants to Buy and Users want to Use.
"Design with the client in mind" sounds like a platitude but when you don't know that the client is more than one persona (A Buyer, a User, and a Stakeholder) it's less platitude and more a beacon of caution. This is the work we love because it organically propels growth. Call us - we'd love to help you get started.